Barack Obama photo

Address During the Inaugural Whistle Stop Tour in Wilmington, Delaware

January 17, 2009

Thank you, Joe, for that welcome. And thank you, Wilmington, for giving us such a great send-off.

It was just under five months ago that Joe Biden stood beside me on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield to accept my invitation to run for Vice President of the United States of America.

I chose Joe because I knew where he came from, even if I hadn't spent much time here -because you can learn a lot about a person's hometown through the deeds that they've done. Joe has always fought for the middle class, while forging the consensus to get things done. He has supported the cops and firefighters and families who form the backbone of our communities, while emerging as a statesman in the community of nations. And for thirty-six years, Delaware has sent Joe Biden to change Washington, and Washington hasn't changed him. Instead, Joe Biden has changed Washington.

The people of Delaware know this better than anyone. Because Joe is still the scrappy kid from Scranton whose family moved here - to Wilmington - in search of a new beginning. They'd known their share of hardships, and they would come to know more. They didn't have much money. But Joe Senior taught his son about the values that stretched longer than the dollar: the dignity of a hard day's work; the primacy of family; the dream that anyone should be able to make it if they try; and the simple lesson that when we Americans get knocked down, we always - always - get back up on our feet.

Those are values that the American people hold in common. They are shared by Irish Catholics from Wilmington and African Americans from the South Side of Chicago, and by Hispanics and Asians and Native Americans all across this great land. They form a foundation for our success, and lift us up when we face adversity.

Those are values that Joe carried with him to the Senate. You sent him there when he was just thirty, and that's when tragedy struck. Suddenly, this man who had a limitless future before him had lost more than most of us could ever imagine. That's when Joe Biden got back up on his feet.

He didn't move away from Delaware. Instead, day after day, month after month, year after year, he came here - to this station - and boarded the train to our nation's capital. And then, night after night, month after month, year after year, he rode that train back home in the evening to raise his boys and a beautiful family alongside his wife Jill.

He would be the first to tell you that he didn't do it alone - he had the people of this city and this state with him every step of the way. Now, Delaware, I'm asking Joe Biden to take one more ride to Washington.

Together, we know that there is work to be done. Together, we know that America faces its own crossroads - a nation at war, an economy in turmoil, an American Dream that feels like its slipping way. Together, we know that the American people are facing adversity, and that the time has come to pick ourselves up once again.

We have heard your stories on the campaign trail. We've been touched by your dreams. And we will fight for you every single day that we're in Washington, because Joe and I are both committed to leading a government that is accountable - not just to the wealthy or the well-connected, but to you. To the conductors who make our trains run, and to the workers who lay down the rails. To the parents who worry about how they're going to pay next month's bills on the commute to work, and to the children who hear the whistle of the train and dream of a better life.

That's who we're fighting for. That's who needs change. And those are the stories that we will carry with us to Washington.

We will carry with us the story of Mike and Cheryl Fisher. Mike is a longtime machinist whose workplace has faced the prospect of layoffs. Cheryl works as a nurse's assistant, and waits for a grandchild who is on the way. Together, they seek only to live and work and retire in the same Indiana hometown where they raised their children.

We will carry with us the story of Roy Gross, a truck driver from Michigan who moves cars from the plant to the showroom. Roy has watched as his friends have lost jobs while plants have shuttered their doors. He wants to see American industry build the cars of tomorrow, and jobs that let working people leave their children a better life.

We will carry with us the story of Quincy Lucas, a teacher from Dover, Delaware. Quincy lost her sister in a terrible act of domestic violence, and dedicated herself to ensuring that other families don't have to suffer like hers. She works with young people to stand up to violence, and is helping to build a safer and more secure community.

These are the quiet heroes who have made this country great. You can find them in every city and every town in all fifty states. They work hard, they look after their families, they sacrifice for their children and their grandchildren, and they deserve a government that represents the same enduring values that they live out in their own lives.

Theirs are the stories that will drive me in the days ahead, and this is the moment that we must come together for the sake of our country. For while we come from different places, as Americans we share a common story. That story began over two centuries ago in Philadelphia, where we started today's journey, and where are forefathers declared the birth of our nation and the creation of our Constitution.

It was here, in Delaware, that the Constitution was first ratified. It was here, in Delaware, where the first state joined our union. Now, it falls to us to carry forward that American story, and to make it our own. Now, it falls to us to ensure that everyone in this country can make it if they try. Now, it falls to us to pick ourselves up, to reach for the promise of a better day, and to do the hard work of perfecting our union once more.

Barack Obama, Address During the Inaugural Whistle Stop Tour in Wilmington, Delaware Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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